Friday, February 27, 2009

Just generally annoying stuffs.

With all of yesterday's fun of getting some adverts slipped in the taxi window as I was heading home from the airport I forgot to mention some of the less interesting parts of my trip...

This was just a quick trip out of Xiamen for one night, really just to give Tina some time to relax without me - or to make her miss me - something like that. But, because it was a short trip it meant an early morning flight and I had to be at the airport at 06:00. So at 05:30, still half asleep, I wander downstairs to catch a taxi. Getting a taxi is never a problem because there is a 24 hour massage place located in our complex and apparently it does a good business in the late hours.

A twenty minute taxi ride later and I'm at the airport - there were a few times the driver tried to talk to me and in addition to not understanding I was tired and just went with the simple "听不懂" (I liken this to - I don't understand you at all, please stop talking). When we got there the diver couldn't produce a receipt for me, trying to explain in some way how his new car and meter didn't work - I was too tired to argue and more shocked and slightly worried about the hundreds of people at the airport.

Big crowds at airports are never fun, especially at 06:00, but it turned out that they were all big travel groups that felt the need to stand outside and just block all the entrances until each of their 50-60 members were there - once you fought your way through them inside the airport was still empty. There were also several groups inside blocking the security area, but at least the ticket counters were all empty.

The flights up and back were fairly uneventful, for some reason we took a flight with a layover which makes a 2 hour flight take 3-1/2, and then rains at our middle stop delayed us for an hour on the way out and 30 minutes on the way back.

Getting back into Xiamen and apparently we arrived at the same time as several other flights, again masses of people acting like they've never been in an airport and pushing to get somewhere quickly only to realize that they need to go back to wherever they just came from. It get's slightly less annoying every time you go through it. The line for the taxis was as bad as I have ever seen it, taking me almost 30 minutes just to get through that line.

It's the end of the taxi ride that I get most bothered, as the taxi gives me my 50 back explaining that it's a fake. Damn. Now I have to break on of my 100's and find someone else that will accept my fake 50.

Now, I didn't know that the 50 was fake when I tried giving it to the cabbie, and I'm not sure whom I should now try to pawn it off on. I received it from the taxi driver that took me to the airport - he was probably figuring that I was just some foreigner that would never be back again, but the lack of a receipt makes it so that I don't have his taxi number and can't call to lodge a complaint. I should give him credit for that, and as an upside I'll be more observant in the future, even if it is six in the morning and I'm still asleep. It's not even a good fake - it may be hard to spend.

But it is Friday, and 老Joe is in town which means that we will be out at bars, so right now I'm presuming that the 50 will find its way out of my wallet and become someone else's problem before the weekend is through....

Thursday, February 26, 2009


We've talked about how Xiamen has gotten some awards for being the friendliest city, the most beautiful, most livable, and some other best of China items. Every city here seems to have at least one thing that everyone can brag about that makes them unique in this country of billions.

We have also noticed a lot of cleanup and changes since we have been here, older buildings being torn down and the constant construction of high rises and more apartment and office space then a city of this size could ever fill. There was a short panic last year, at least from us, when the city went through one of their beautification processes and we were worried that we would never see the girls that polish our shoes again... Luckily they have returned and we have relaxed a little about losing some of the little things that we love the most about living here.

One thing that had disappeared were the young kids crowding at the major intersections spending time throwing cards into open windows or wedging them under car wipers or into door jams while you waited at stoplights. The card they have a ads for girls - I'm presuming that they are for legit massage services, but I can't read the cards. I saw these on my very first trip down to Xiamen and the guys that had picked me up explained that the use kids to had out the cards since the cops don't care as much then...

But all of that seemed to have stopped, probably at least six months ago, and I never really gave it much of a thought. That is, until today when I hopped in a taxi to return home from the airport. When the taxi slowed down to turn onto the main street out of the airport a young boy stepped forward and slid the following two cards into the taxi window and onto my lap... Strange how we hadn't missed this part of Xiamen as much as we missed getting our shoes polished....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Consular Services......

...or lack of them.

When Mark and I first arrived in China, I registered us at the American and Canadian consulates, just for precaution. Your passport fees help to support the consulates and embassies around the world.

Here in lies the difference, Mark receives on many occasions updates and news from the American Consulate. The emails will cover anything from severe weather, to any outbreaks, anything that a traveler/expat may need to know while abroad.

An example of an email he received back in December, advising him that the American Consulate would be coming to Xiamen. The closest consulate is in Guangzhou.

Example below:



American Citizen Services Outreach

Xiamen – December 18

The Consulate General will offer American Citizen Services at the following locations this Thursday:

The Consulate will provide the following services:

** Additional Passport Pages (See Below for Procedures)

Passport Renewals

Notarial Services

Registration with the U.S. Consulate


Information Regarding:

Medical/Legal Services in China

Warden Program

Tax Information

Federal Benefits Information

As for us Canadians, I received one email about voting in our past election. Aside from that, I have yet to receive one email notifying us of anything. When I posed the question to them, their reply was that they simply don't offer those services.

Mmm, makes you wonder where are dollars go..

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Lemonade is the newest thing that we've moved on to in our world over here. We've tried finding some in the stores and other then the little, and overpriced, bottles of Snapple all you can find is an odd Chinese version that is way too sweet and, actually, doesn't taste all that much like lemonade.

So, in keeping in how we do things over here - we purchased a small juicer and I proceeded to juice up 7 or 8 lemons to get a cup of lemon juice.

It's a pain, but not as much work as the coffee grinder and the lemonade that we enjoyed was excellent.

This will also become very handy in the warmer months that are approaching when we need lemon juice so that Tina can make her sangria....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Garlic Prawns

With my new found confidence in the culinary arena, I decided that I would venture off to try a dish that I hadn't cooked before, garlic prawns.

First thing we needed were the stars of my dish, prawns. Off we went, searching for ones that weren't swimming and kicking. Not so easy when you live in a country where most people wouldn't think of buying produce that wasn't alive. The Chinese definitely like their food fresh. We went to the market twice, as the first time we went during the noon siesta time. We should have known better. The second time we were more successful. After eyeing the tubs of live fish, snakes, frogs, eels, and turtles, we finally found someone who sold prawns that didn't obligate me to slay the little guys.

Once cleaned and deveined, I added my ingredients, which basically came down to 2 bulbs of garlic and rice wine. The meal was quite delicious.

At some point, I'm sure we will try our hand in cooking steamed fish in the wok. Baby steps, baby steps.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

...on the way to the material market.

This weekend one of the errands that Tina felt we needed to complete was a trip up to the material market so that we could buy some material to get more pants and shirts made. This is all good, but I am at a point where I sometimes feel that I have enough clothes and do not need to have more made. Since we have been here I have probably had 6 pairs of pants and a couple of linen shirts added to my wardrobe. It's nice stuff, well made and somewhat inexpensive, but as a guy it seems like I now have far more clothes then I would ever need.

Sure, but this time I agreed to go along so that we could find some more casual material for shirts. The fun material with Chinese characters and stuff like that and since I suppose that I could always use another weekend shirt, off I went to the market. Being a nice day we walked up to the market, it's maybe two miles, and guess what sort of happiness we found on the way to the market?

An officially licensed MLB store selling all things baseball. Well really not all things, but more then one would have ever expected...
We picked up a few things - the jacket I'm sporting is a weird track suit type jacket. I'm thinking of a sort of retro jackets like the "Member's Only" styles from the 80's. The banding at the base and collar is gold and sparkles. Yea - I'm cool again.

It was an odd collection of items, including jeans and sneakers that are marked with the logo's of the big baseball teams. Too much of the stuff was Yankee tagged for me, and the overall selection was odd - Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Royals, Tigers, Pirates, and the Giants making up 90% of what they had. There were a few Cubs and Angels items, but that was about it. Tina was a little upset that the Blue Jays weren't represented, but I think she looks better in the Red Sox top anyway.
But most of the styles were nice, and a lot of these would sell well if they were marketed in the States. We looked online when we returned home and the company making them is the China licensee for the MLB. The stuff seemed expensive, meaning that it cost about the same as one would expect them to cost back home, but everything was on sale at 50% off - hard to argue with that. We ended up with the jacket, 3 sweatshirts, and the t-shirt for Tina. We did not try on the sneakers.

So we managed to spend all of our clothing budget for this and next month before we even got to the material market, but we still managed to get some material for new clothes. I found some great casual things and am having made some shirts made that I think we work perfectly when we are in Hawaii in May for Heather and Mike's wedding.....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Downloading television?

Yesterday when I commented that we were running low on hard disk space Heather commented that we should download BSG as that would probably take up a good 4GB. Maybe she didn't understand what I meant when I said that we were taking up too much space with our pictures and music. BSG for those who aren't as cool and hip as Heather is the new Battlestar Galactica series, and apparently they really enjoy it and they pushed us over the holidays explaining that it was that good and that we needed to start watching it.

But downloading it? That seems wrong. I'm not sure the rules on these things and we do know a lot of people over here that are always downloading the latest movies and television shows. We prefer to wander over to our local DVD shop and see if they have it, and since it was highly recommended, we did pick up a box set of the first 3 seasons of BSG for the more expensive box set price of 30 kuai (4.5 USD).

We have purchased several series and we are slowly working through them. Since we've been here we've watched seasons 1&2 of Dexter, 1-4 of Weeds, 1&2 of Dead Like Me, and all 4 seasons of Rescue Me together. Tina has spend the days working her way through Rome, House, CSI, The Tudors, Sex & the City, and some of the series Dirt. The last week we started on Mad Men, and we are about half way through the first season. Sitting at home most nights we've become that lazy old couple that just watches the television...

When our friends Jose and Edlin left we ended up with stacks of their DVDs, and we still have some that we bought way back when we fist arrived. So, besides all the movies we purchased, we also have - Family Guy, Benny Hill, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Hogans Hero's, Cashmere Mafia, Prison Break, The Wire, Numbers, 24, Will & Grace, and I'm sure some others too - I'm too lazy to go and look.

So, with all of that available at nice China pricing and without the time required to download them from the computer and transfer them so you can watch them on the television, why would anybody download shows? Because some shows you can't find here in China, and since we have been back we have taken to downloading some shows and now have on our hard drive WKRP in Cincinnati 1-4, The Inbetweeners (we would recommend this one), the complete Yogi Bear cartoon series, Automan, Spin City season 1, Good Eats (1-4, 8 and 10), No Reservations 2, and we are about 60-70% done with downloading The Greatest American Hero and Buck Rogers...

That's a lot of television watching. Luckily we know enough to pull ourselves away from the television once in a while and head out to a local bar...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Important Milestone?

Huh? Out of hard disk space?

When we were back in the States over the holidays we purchased a new 1TB hard drive - yep 1 terabyte, that's 1000 gigabytes, or just more memory then you would ever think that you would need. And yes, we bought it in Chicago - electronics seem to be much cheaper once you get outside of China, even if they were made in China and then exported out, so we try to make most of those big purchases when we are out on a holiday somewhere. This new addition is now our third external hard drive - we have a 500GB that we had back before we moved, and not that long ago we filled that up and ran up the street and purchased a smaller 320GB drive.

We are memory hogs. We know that and accept it. Especially now that we both have SLR cameras that we almost always have with us - we took 166GB of photos last year. All those that we load onto Flickr are only a small, and we believe the better, portion of what we took.

So, yeah sorry I got distracted, this new milestone that we hit? Well back when we picked up our new hard drive we connected it to our friend's computer and copied the music files that they had so that we could load them up onto our iPod when we returned. Mike is a sax player, really knows his jazz which makes for a good collection along with a ton of other great music - much of which we did not already own. Since we've been back I've been slowly transferring these files from our download directory into iTunes and organizing them so we can get them transferred onto the two iPods that we now have...

We've still got a lot of music to transfer, but I looked down today when I finished transferring some Brazilian jazz albums and we officially had just over 20,000 songs on our iTunes. I think that's some kind of milestone - maybe one that says we're crazy. We've still got almost 2,000 more songs from Mike to load up too....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More Flintstones....

Since Tina decided to mention how we were running much more in a Flintstones environment because we have an old school manual coffee grinder as opposed to a Jetsons style fancy let's-always-have-a-perfect-cup-of-coffee complete brewing machine.

It got me to thinking, as we did make fun of Heather and Mike while we were there because they also had a automated germ-free self opening garbage can that pops it's top open when you approach it with some rubbish. Fancy stuff this future holds, but it made me think of all the other things that we've become accustomed to since we moved to China that we thought outdated or just different when we moved here.

They have hot water in their kitchen, a novel concept and something that we do not have. We have to heat up a pot of water just to do the dishes - I'm not sure that hot dishwater was ever addressed in the Flintstones.

The had a washer and a dryer, we have a washer and a clothesline. Takes a little longer to dry things, and in the typhoon season and the months of 90% humidity a clothesline doesn't really do much to dry your clothes. Our washer doesn't have hot water either...

Heat. The future holds heat but with us being in the south of China we don't have any heat in our place. You don't think of 12C (54F) as cold, but when that's the only temperature you are in all day long it sinks into your bones. The windows that we have are also poorly constructed so they shut and block out the wind about as well as the open stone holes in the Flintstones homes. Luckily, one thing that the Chinese love is fresh air, so even when it's cold outside and a good breeze has you shivering the windows will be open at work and any restaurant or store you visit.

The Jetsons, and much of the states, get all their food pre-packaged and pre-processed, whereas we wander the local market. This is one of those instances where we think the old way is better and now, since Tina had Siew Hong's training class, we have even stepped up to buying meat in the market - selecting a slab of pork that's been sitting out in the heat on a sheet of cardboard. Tina will have to inform you the tricks to getting the best stuff another time.

I'm sure there are some other things, but then we also have things that, to us at least, seem more advanced then what we left back in the States. Some of the items are a bit of a nuisance sometimes, but being here with everything that we get to experience more then makes up for these little things like having to grind our own coffee beans and manually open the cupboard door to throw things into the rubbish bin.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jetsons vs. Flintstones

In the morning Mark enjoys one or two cups of coffee which happens to be instant coffee, except on the weekends. When we first arrived, I suggested that we purchase an electric coffee machine to which my husband replied a big fat NO.

Mark is extremely fussy when it comes to coffee, the water temperature has to be right, the grinds have to be so, the strength has to be perfect, you get the drift. Mark decided that in order to get a decent cup of coffee on the weekend, we needed to purchase a French press instead. We purchase this little guy (which gives us two cups of coffee) and throw in some of the beans. According to my beloved, there is an issue with this, as the beans have been grounded way too fine for his liking, so he decided that we needed to grind our own coffee. Okay, except he doesn't want an electrical coffee grinder, he wants a manual one. Of all places, you would think China would sell these grinders. Nope cannot locate one, electric grinders they have, manual not so much. I happened to mention our plight to one of our expat friends, and oddly enough she had one. She was going to throw it away, as they have an electrical one. We've had it for about a month and now we get to enjoy freshly ground coffee on the weekends.

Yesterday, I decided that I would be the good little wife, and start grinding some coffee for him, so he can have a decent cup of coffee before he leaves for work. I started grinding the coffee, and grinding and grinding. As I'm grinding, I keeping thinking of our friends Heather and Mike who purchased one of those new fangled coffee machines, (Keurig Platinum B70) that produces individual cups of coffee. You only need to select the coffee of your choosing and a perfect cup of coffee comes out each time. Thirty minutes later I'm still grinding.

Yea, our friends are the Jetsons, and we're the Flintstones.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Friendliest City in China!

The one thing Mark and I will miss when we return, is how friendly the people are in Xiamen. Last week, I was coming home from Metro, carrying a heavy box full of groceries, as they no longer offer shopping bags, even if wanted to fork out a whopping 3 kuai. Didn't get the memo. I digress. I was leaving the taxi, attempting to carry this box, that was almost falling apart because the cardboard boxes here are very thin, and look like they could disintegrate at any moment. Back to the story, okay, so the young security guard offers to help me, and carries my box of groceries, to our apartment complex. Though he was explaining to me that it wasn't heavy, I saw the beads of sweat over his eyebrows, and I retrieved the box as I now only had to get in the elevator and to our apartment.

As I was standing in the elevator, a middle aged women who works here, wanted to help me with my groceries, and told her politely in Chinese I'm fine, just hit our floor. She pushes the button, and then turns around and grabs the box of groceries. Why? I have no idea, thinking she probably wanted to take a look and see what exactly laowai's eat.

Why, am I mentioning this? Last year Xiamen won the award for being the "Friendliest City in China", by a Beijing based company called

You won't get any arguments coming from me.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Weekend recap

This weekend we just enjoyed ourselves, relaxed, and caught up on lots of little errands that we needed to get done. We're still behind on some things that we need to complete - but we are getting them done.

First thing on our task list was to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather the Xiamen is having. This weekend the high was 27C (about 80F) very different then this same time last year when Xiamen hit a record low of 3C (about 40F) - this was the weekend last year that we gave up and bought a heater. We enjoyed our Friday evening by cleaning off the months worth of dirt on our balcony (Tina did this), dragging our ipod and sounddock outside and just relaxed with music, whisky, cigars, and happy conversations about the weather...

Saturday was apparently a holiday here in China and Siew Yih wanted to know if we would be celebrating this Valentine's day over at Temptations with their special dinner. Of course we would - not having to cook and getting a special, probably overpriced, meal - how could we say no? Most of day the we relaxed at home organizing our music files on itunes. Dinner was pigeon and pork, it was delicious and not too expensive - and of course there was good wine to enjoy with the meal.

Today was another full day of things to do, a fog as wrapped itself around Xiamen and the temperature dropped down to 20C - the heat wave is over... So with colder temperatures we head through the market to our friendly shoe shine girls to get our shoes all cleaned up. A little extra work on mine raises the cost so that for the two of us it totals out just over 1USD. From there we do our grocery shopping in the market and I go spend another dollar for a haircut.

A happy plate of nachos for lunch and then we wander off to get a nice massage and cupping. It had been too long since we forcibly removed the toxins from our bodies...
Look at how clean my body was - hardly any toxins this time. You can look back at our first time cupping to see just how dark the spots were on my back then. I think that it was the whisky from Friday that helped to keep my system clean....

Friday, February 13, 2009

One last thing about Malaysia...

I just want to take some time to talk about one thing that really bothers me about Malaysia, and that would be the taxi's. We had some problems with the taxi's when we first went to Kuala Lumpur, but promptly forgot about them because that was when we were still fresh to Asia and just wrote it off as not fully understanding how the culture is different here.

When we were just back, this time in Penang, we remembered our hassles from before. Taxi's in Malaysia do not use their meters, all taxi's have meters in them but they will just flat out refuse to use them - you tell them where you are going and then they will give you a price. You can then barter with them, usually getting them down by about 30-50% but it's a hassle and I feel bad for the people that don't like to barter. I enjoy it somewhat and have no problems walking away from a taxi if I think he's overcharging me - Tina eventually gets annoyed with me and we end up overpaying for a ride anyway.

Another issue is that you can flag taxi's down and they may or may not agree to take you to where you are going - that's standard pretty much everywhere in Asia, especially around shift change - but in Malaysia there are set taxi stands and you can't wave a taxi down if you are near these taxi stands, even if you just failed to reach an agreeable fare with them.

This time, while in Penang, we talked to one taxi driver and he explained a lot of the taxi problems to us - turns out he doesn't like their system either but he couldn't be convinced that there might be a better way. The government won't let them raise the metered fare and it is set so that if they were driving all day with customers the meter would barely cover the cost of the car much less the petrol. So therefore nobody uses the meter, but because of this people think they can haggle and since some people feel the need to see the price reduced (he was implying mainly the Chinese here) they raised their fares so that they can bargain down to a lower fare that is still acceptable.

All sounds good, but then guide books started noting that they didn't use meters and that you should barter - now everybody does it and the taxi drivers have to inflate their starting fares even more so that they can cover their expenses on the bartered costs.... Yep, it's that crazy.

Next, taxi's have to pay to stop at taxi stands - so in Penang for example, they may pay at 2-3 hotel stands in different areas of the city and maybe some tourist spots. We were told that this is so you would know who to complain to if you had a bad taxi driver, we think it's just a way for the city or these taxi clubs to make money off membership fees. However it makes it tough when outside of a hotel there are usually 5-10 taxi just waiting around and then you barter with the group trying to find the guy most hungry for a fare to accept your offer. If you can't find someone you need to walk 5+ minutes to the next taxi stand where a whole different set of taxi's will be waiting. So, if you are coming out of your hotel and a taxi pulls up to drop someone off chances are you can't get into that taxi - since they probably are not signed up with the taxi club of your hotel.

Finally - don't ask the bellhop at the hotel to get a taxi for you. You don't need to as there are usually plenty just across the street, and the driver will inflate the fare by 10-20 MR (3-5 USD) as a kickback for him. We had this problem going to the airport on the last day and all the guy did was wave at the taxi when we walked out of the hotel. We had asked before and were shown their standard rate (they have these printed on laminated sheets for main sites, but don't like to pull them out) - but the fare to the airport should have been 50 RM plus a 5% increase since we were going in off hours (23:00-07:00 - it was 06:00 when we left for the airport...) The taxi pulled up and told us it would be 100. We told him we knew it was 50 and he came down to 80, then 70, then finally agreeing to 53 which included the 5%. At the airport he again tried to raise the rate to 70, and then 60 before agreeing again to what we had agreed upon at the hotel. Can't say that they don't try...

That's all, just some information about how the taxi system works in Malaysia. If you go just be prepared to barter for the price, and pay attention to what fares they are charging. Look for their price list and base all of your further bartering prices off of that sheet. Oh, and try not to get as annoyed with them as I did.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lantern Festival

Last Monday was the Lantern Festival which is held on the 15th day of the first month in the lunar year. It also officially ends the Chinese New Year. Each year, they have displays throughout park, which last approximately two weeks, as it takes many man hours, and dollars to put this celebration together.

Most of the exhibits are dedicated to the Ox, since it's his year, but there were also exhibits of ships, the Beijing mascots (Fuwa), Confucius, Buddha, and anything else Chinese you can think of, so Mark and I took as many pictures as we could without bumping into people. The shear number of people made it impossible.

Going to the park- Bailuzhou

The year's star- The Ox!

The vendors hoping someone would buy their pocket mirrors and other assorted crap!

There is a saying in Chinese, 人山人海, ren(2)shan(1)ren(2)hai(3), which literally translated means, people mountain people sea, or a sea of people. I think it was an accurate description of Monday night.

Swarm of spectators

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Final day in Malaysia

Our last full day in Malaysia we get a wake up call from the taxi driver that we booked because he just wanted to make sure that we were still on for heading over to Penang hill and then hiring him out to drive us around the island for a few hours.

We get up and enjoy a quick breakfast before meeting our driver who has already made sure to have some tickets for the funicular at Penang Hill purchased. We get there just before 11:00 and within 10 minutes we are in the car taking the 30 minute ride up to the top of the hill.

It's a slow ride, but still interesting and at the top you get some great views of the island.
They had some of the older cars on display - they don't look like they would hold quite as many people as the new ones do, but the open are would be a lot nicer. The cars that they jam you into now are hot and stuffy, not something you would want to do in the summer months.

From there we had our taxi driver take us down to the south side of the island, this area is a lot of small fishing villages and supposedly some really good food.

Of course by we get there shortly after 14:00 all of the food places are closed up until dinner. But it was still beautiful to see, a lot of the area is being built up as they are expecting to build a new bridge to the mainland and everyone is expecting big things for this area.

From the fishing villages we headed back to Georgetown, paid our driver and then spent the rest of the day just relaxing knowing that our holiday was coming to an end the next day and we'd be back into the cold and work of Xiamen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Today's the day....

Finally, after all of our waiting - Temptation's wine and coffee opens up again. It would have been a rough week since we returned from our Chinese New Year holiday in Malaysia, but while we were there Siew gave us the number of their manager and told us that we could call her and make her open up to store to sell us some wine. That was nice...

So today they should be rolling up the metal grating that made their place look closed for these last few weeks and starting up with the selling of the wine, cheesecake and meals. We were lucky that we knew the owners and were able to have the manager open up for us to make some purchases, had we not gone to Ipoh we would have just assumed that they were reopening last week like so many other Chinese shops.

We can only wonder how many other foreigners and locals tried to buy wine last week and presumed that Temptations had gone the way so many other Chinese shops and succumbed to the weakening economy....

Monday, February 9, 2009

Even more of Georgetown, Penang...

Back to talking about our trip to Malaysia over the Chinese New Year's holiday, and our time in Georgetown.

We were up bright and early, around 10:00, so that we could be sure to enjoy breakfast and still make it over to the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (their official site seems to load slow - if you care try the Wikipedia site) in time for their 11:00 tour. It's an great place brimming with all sorts of old artifacts and the tour explains how the whole place was designed for optimum feng shui.
The only downside to visiting this place is that they do not allow photographs inside, so we can't share with you what we saw - we do recommend taking the tour or even staying at the hotel they have there - it does seem that amazing.

After that hour plus tour we stopped at a local English pub for a pint and some snacks and then off to the Protestant cemetery. This old cemetery was used from 1798 - 1892 and is the burial site of Francis Light, the founder of Georgetown and Penang.

From there we hopped in a taxi to head over to Penang Hill so that we could take the funicular up to the top of the hill and enjoy the sights.
Only problem with that plan was that when we arrived there at 15:30 the first tickets up that were available were for the 17:45 trip. We took a taxi back to our hotel with the plan of getting up early and making sure to get tickets the next day. Our taxi driver explained how it was a bad system and that there are lines in the morning for the tickets and how he could have one of the girls that sells t-shirts buy tickets for us and he could pick us up the next morning and take us back up to the hill. The extra cost for getting these tickets far outweighed the cost of our time waiting at the hill so we agreed to see him again the next day and pay extra for tickets to be waiting for us when we got there.

So, the next day was planned -what to do now? Wander around and take pictures of more of the architecture...
We wandered west from our hotel, past some old ruins and up to the beach, where we stumbled upon a fully restored building that housed the restaurant 32 which had been highly recommended to Tina - so inside we went to make reservations for dinner.
From there we strolled across the street to the ruins of the Shih Chung Branch School where we easily spent 45 minutes wandering around taking photos.
It looked like it used to be quite a school, but it is hard to find a lot of information on it over the web. Apparently it started as a mansion sometime in the 1880's and changed hands several times. I found this blog from someone that graduated there in 1988, but really not a lot of postings. It would be sad if something like this ends up being torn down, but we can't even begin to imagine the amount of money that would be required to properly restore it.

More of our wandering in Georgetown....
Then after an incredible dinner we wandered over to Upper Penang Road which is just a closed off pedestrian way of bars with outdoor seating. Tina made a group happy when she tried to sneak over a get a photo that they were all lined up posing for....And that was our second full day in Georgetown, a couple of quick drinks and we were off to bed so we could be up the next morning to meet our taxi driver....

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Yeah - instead of posting a full blog tonight I just want to brag a little about how well Tina takes photos.

So on our side bar you will now see a link to the travel site Shamap, a website that does a great job to cover that gap between reality and your local travel guide. We add it because they've picked a photo of Tina's to add to their guide - St. Vitus Cathedral - our Schmap link is St. Vitus Cathedral.

It's nice that someone recognizes Tina's great eye for photography. Tomorrow will will return to our standard posting of what we've been doing....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Georgetown in pictures...

As Tina mentioned we stayed at the Bayview Hotel, pretty much right in the center of Georgetown, which worked out nice for us. Our view from the hotel looked out over the Eastern & Oriental hotel and then off to the water, a pretty nice view albeit slightly hazy.
The hotel was nice, I think that we would recommend it. The rooms were fairly inexpensive and included breakfast from 06:00-10:00, which worked well for us. There is one thing that may bother some people -
Yep, you aren't allowed to stink up their hotel enjoying durian. That really is too bad.

So, our first full day in Georgetown and we decide to risk walking around this crazy no stoplight, no crosswalk, no sidewalk city. We haven't been this adverse to crossing the street since Hanoi, but at least there you felt like they didn't really want to hit you. You don't get that comfortable feeling here.

Town Hall
City HallFort Cornwallis Lighthouse and Flagpole
Looking out into the North Channel from Fort Cornwallis

After the fort we basically wandered around trying to get lost in the town and admiring the old architecture, stopping only to grab a snack and a drink before the heat got to us and we decided to finally get ourselves some lunch.
After lunch we headed up to Gurney Mall for some shopping. We were looking for an iPod, and not just any iPod, no we wanted one of the recently discontinued 160GB iPods. We looked for these in the States with no luck, but here in Georgetown we were able to find one for slightly less then it would have cost in the States and through our masterful bartering we got a free Acrylic cover thrown in. How sweet is that?

Afterward my bartering skills suffered a bit of a setback as I walked away from two taxi stands trying to get a reasonable fare back to the hotel. It was alright though, as we did get to see some of the larger old houses that were built up on this part of the island.
See? Nice, almost worth it. Not many of these places are left as they are being torn down and replaced with gigantic apartment complexes.

Once we were back at the hotel we decided to head across the street to the Eastern & Oriental hotel and have a drink out on their outdoor patio.

Did I mention that while at the mall we also spent more then we should have on a nice wide angle lens adapter for our camera?
Also very nice, we have photos to prove it. Maybe tomorrow we will show you some.
Beautiful night sky at the E&O Hotel

And after all this fun what do you do? Dinner at the local dining stalls...
The food was delicious and we sat on the drinking side so we were also able to enjoy some nice cold local beers.
The guy at the stand there is who we ordered from, he tried to rip us off. He would have gotten away with it too, but the food was excellent and we went up and ordered more - that's when he must have felt guilty because he came over and gave us another 20 Ringgit (5USD) in change which more then paid for the second helping of food that we ordered.